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NBA Power Rankings: Rockets Launch

After 16 weeks and with 30 games to go in the season, the Houston Rockets are emerging as one of Moke Hamilton’s favorites in the Western Conference.

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With the passing of the All-Star break, the most pertinent question for quite a few of the league’s superstars and their respective teams is what the remainder of the NBA season holds. At this point, each NBA team has played at least 51 games and some have played as many as 55. And as the trade deadline approaches and we await the final resolution to a few of this season’s ongoing sagas—Kyle Lowry, Omer Asik, Pau Gasol and Carmelo Anthony each come to mind—it is in the Lone Star State that the NBA’s hottest team resides.

Texas may have 99 problems, but the Rockets aren’t one.

After winning 45 games all of last season, the Rockets are sitting pretty at 36-17 and are on a season-high seven-game win streak that also happens to be the longest current streak in the league. Over the past few weeks, we have quietly been wondering whether the Rockets can win the Western Conference, and for now, we remain convinced that they can.

But with Russell Westbrook expected to make his return on Thursday night when the Oklahoma City Thunder host the Miami HEAT, the race for the conference crown will be one that contains, at the very least, two horses.

At 24-27, the Brooklyn Nets are currently locked into the seventh seed in the East, and seem destined to draw the HEAT in round one of the playoffs while their intracity rivals—the New York Knicks—are merely hoping to string some wins together and qualify for the postseason party. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves are doing the same, trying to pick up the pieces of disappointing first halves of their respective seasons and hoping to qualify for the 2014 playoffs.

The NBA season is a marathon, but with the trade deadline approaching and teams arriving at the quarter-pole, it’s now or never.

And for those Rockets—it may be now.

Have a question or comment on Moke’s Weekly Power Rankings? Feel free to ask him a question in his Weekly NBA Chat, held each Friday afternoon.

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders.

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